COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday announced the expansion of the H2Ohio farmer incentive program into 10 additional counties in the Lake Erie Basin, including three in Northeast Ohio.
The initiative will now be offered in Erie, Huron, and Richland counties, as well as Crawford, Marion, Ottawa, Sandusky, Seneca, Shelby, and Wyandot. The announcement comes just days after DeWine signed Ohio's new two-year operating budget, which allocates $120 million for the program over that period.
The governor released the following statement:
"Our food growers and producers in the Western Lake Erie Basin want to be part of the solution, as evidenced by the 1,800 farmers who participated in the program's first year. By expanding H2Ohio's farmer incentive program into more counties in the area, we'll continue to slow phosphorus runoff, which will ultimately contribute to a reduction in Lake Erie algal blooms over the long term."
H2Ohio offers incentives to farmers "who implement proven conservation practices that limit agricultural phosphorus runoff from fertilizer." DeWine launched the program in November of 2019 with the goal of reducing harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie as well as addressing wastewater infrastructure and lead contamination.
Dorothy Pelanda, Director of the Ohio Department of Agriculture, said:
"We are excited to not only move forward with these important conservation practices in our original target area of the Western Lake Erie Basin but also be able to incorporate these practices into an even greater area. Interest is incredibly strong and ODA is committed to working with our farmers to help them navigate the process of conserving their water and land resources while advancing water quality in our state."
The program had previously been offered in 14 counties from the Toledo and Lima areas. Virtual meetings with farmers in the new counties will be held later this month to discuss more details.
Gov. DeWine's office announced Wednesday that two dozen communities will receive a total of $9 million in H2Ohio funding "for projects to improve the quality of drinking water and to repair or replace aging water, wastewater and sewage infrastructure."